Category ues

FROM INTERN TO STAFFER, CINDERELLA STORIES FROM SW+

Like a lot of design firms, SW+ offers summer internships to college students who are finishing up their degrees and need an introduction to the working world of their chosen discipline. In our case, these budding professionals are hankering to join the ranks of either landscape architects or civil engineers. Over the years we have enjoyed meeting and working with nearly 100 interns, some of whom came back to stay. Those talented folks who became full-time SW+ staffers have a few key characteristics in common.

Focus is Key to turning that summer internship into your  career kick off.

Focus is Key to turning that summer internship into your career kick off.

  • They are honestly excited about what they do.
  • They are interested in learning and take direction well.
  • They are able to view mistakes as opportunities for growth.
  • They are enjoy working hard and having fun.
  • They are willing and able to work with a diverse range of people.

A Few of Our Cinderella Stories

Lia Tomczak is our latest summer intern to make the transition to full time working stiff. Not being from ‘around here’ – she’s a Flint, Michigan girl and a graduate of Michigan State University (Go Green! Go White!) Lia brings a different perspective with her, which adds to the mix of ideas from which great design comes. A high energy, positive force of nature, she is currently working hard with our in-house urban design group, Urban Edge Studio.

Here’s what Lia has to say about life at SW+.

“After interning this past summer, I was fortunate enough to be hired full time into the SWA/UES family. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined during my time here. I’m excited to see what the future brings!”

Daniel Merritt came to us via Clemson University. Once he got settled in his intern’s cubical and started cranking out some well-executed graphics and showing off his AutoCAD skills, it was a match made in Heaven for the landscape architecture department. Easy going and reserved, Daniel is a “rudder in the storm” kind of guy who brings a sense of calm to our sometimes overly excited group.

When asked about his experience with SW+ so far, he said;

“Since I became part of the Seamon Whiteside family, my knowledge of landscape architecture has grown tremendously, and I feel truly involved in the projects I work on. It is wonderful to be part of a company that believes in doing things the right way, and works to ensure that everything, from the overall design to the smallest of details, is designed in the best way possible.”

Jenny Craig Germuth is most definitely our Cinderella story poster girl. Jenny first joined us as a junior in high school participating in the Wando High School internship program. The program encouraged students to gain real-world experience in their fields of interest giving them the opportunity to choose the right career path. Jenny pursued SW+ with the passion of becoming a Civil Engineer one day. She worked, learned, and grew right along with the rest of us, keeping up with the seasoned vets more often than not. Upon high school graduation, she went off to Clemson and embarked on a sparkling collegiate career. After working a few years with SCDOT, Jenny came back to SeamonWhiteside where she is an integral part of our civil engineering team.

We asked Jenny about her favorite SW+ memory and this is what she shared:

“I have gained so many wonderful memories with SW+ over the last 10 years and all of them together are what make me love working here. From the daily challenges of the job to football chatter and photo-shopped pics, company parties, philanthropy, and intermural sports, we all work together and play together as one big family. If I have to choose just one memory, it would probably have to be the office throwing me a Sweet 16th birthday party after work one day. It truly reflects the loyalty and integrity of the people working here. It is easy to take pride in what you do working for a company that takes pride in its people.”

David Prohaska is the solid right hand of the Nexton civil engineering team’s lead engineer. Interning during both his under graduate and graduate school programs, David showed strong leadership and engineering design skills throughout both of his internships. Now a licensed Professional Engineer and LEED Accredited Professional, David divides time between design and engineering, project management, client coordination, and mentoring a couple of our newer engineers.

David had to think about his question for a bit because he says there are lots of choices. We asked him, “What’s the thing you like most about your job.”

“I like the variety. Since I started at SW+, no two jobs have been alike so I’ve been able to gain a lot of experience in an assortment of different types of development quickly. It’s great that I’m not doing the same thing over and over. That daily challenges keep me interested and learning and definitely keeps me on my toes. It’s never dull.”

Who’s Next?

William O’Neal, now a Senior Engineer working with the commercial development team and Cameron Clements Liebetrau, a landscape designer who not only snagged a full-time gig with us but met her husband, former SW+ intern and employee, Ben Liebetrau, as well. We will stop by both of these SW+ Cinderella stories in the future for another look at what it takes to turn a summer internship into a career.


Projects: James E. Clyburn Research Center at MUSC


The Urban Edge Studio of SW+A recently completed the landscape architectural design for the James E. Clyburn Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

UES worked with Columbia based architects Stevens and Wilkinson and Boston based architects Goody Clancy on the overall design. The James E. Clyburn Research Center is comprised chiefly of the Drug Discovery Building and the Bio-Engineering Building. The site is located near the heart of campus at President and Bee Streets in downtown Charleston and was previously a surface parking lot. The project is slated to be certified as LEED Silver. The project, from a landscape architectural aspect, is comprised of four main areas: the front plaza, the Medicinal Garden, the North Garden and the MUSC Urban Farm.

The large front plaza(http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20111121/PC1602/311219923) addresses the challenge of transitioning from the grade of the street to the required building elevation and accommodating major pedestrian axes while creating an area for sitting, eating lunch, having a conversation with a colleague, or as a respite from the laboratory and the classroom. The landscape addresses many of the sustainability aspects of the project including water quality, reduced irrigation, reduced urban island heat effect, and use of local and recycled materials.

Located to the west of the Drug Discovery Building, between the Basic Sciences Building and the Colbert Library is the MUSC Porcher Medicinal Garden.

This area was previously a loading dock area and has been raised about 3 feet to the grade of the surrounding buildings. (http://waring.library.musc.edu/exhibits/PMG/about.php). The garden is a tribute to Dr. Francis Peyre Porcher, an MUSC alumnus and professor who served as a physician during the Civil War. The garden is planted with more than forty species of plants selected from those cataloged in Dr. Porcher’s Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests (1863). Each plant grouping has an interpretive sign that provides information about its medicinal uses. The plants are located in raised planters of Cor-Ten steel, allowing visitors to have a close up view of each plant.

The North Garden serves as a place holder for future buildings, as called for in the campus master plan. It also provides one of the largest open space areas on the campus and the surrounding neighborhood. Several large live oaks, once confined to parking lot islands, were preserved and incorporated into the layout. Sidewalks, benches, and plantings – mostly native species create a comfortable campus landscape that is enjoyed by many on a regular basis.

Located within the North Garden area, just behind the brick wall on Bee Street, is the almost half acre MUSC Urban Farm.

The urban farm was developed with the following Goal Statement: “The MUSC Urban Farm will be a place that cultivates a healthier community by growing crops and social connections while educating and inspiring people with local, nutritious, and delicious food.” UES worked with MUSC staff and Elizabeth Beak of Crop Up (http://www.crop-up.com/) to bring the farm into existence. MUSC conducts “Work and Learn” session where people can learn about eating healthier and growing their own food while taking home some of the food they have harvested. The farm is designed with raised beds, drip irrigation, and mulched pathways. Over 50 varieties of heirloom herbs, fruits and vegetables are raised year round in the farm area.

According to project manager Wade Gatlin of MUSC,  “this $80 million project has fundamentally raised the bar on design excellence in terms of architecture and landscape architecture for the MUSC campus.”  He also said that he “can happily recommend Urban Edge Studio for their ability to engage clients in thoughtful goal setting and consensus building, for their highly detailed solutions and their overall creative vision.” This project, which lasted over five years from beginning to end, presented many design challenges which the UES design team (Bill Eubanks, Russ Seamon and Haley Weeks) met with creativity, insight, and innovation.

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Projects: MUSC East Cooper Rooftop Garden


The design for MUSC Specialty Care East rooftop garden was a unique design challenge.

With the structural integrity of the building in mind, our Landscape Architects worked closely with a local fabricator to create ultra-lightweight planters and a custom lightweight soil blend that could be placed on the rooftop with confidence. Plant pots were created of a specialty material called star board that is often used in marine cabinetry then arranged into a beatiful rooftop garden.

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The layout for the rooftop considers all potential users. Hospital staff, patients, and visitors can enjoy the unique vistas and spaces for outdoor dining without leaving the building. Additionally, staffers have the opportunity to get their hands dirty in the area set aside for a small rooftop garden. Quiet restorative space is often difficult to find in an urban setting. To address this frequently overlooked design element and provide meditative white noise, SW+A incorporated a fountain into the rooftop design. The fountain also serves to evoke a sense of cooling on hot summer days

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The building, designed by Architecture firm Stubbs, Muldrow, Herin & Associates, and the grounds were developed with an environmentally sensitive approach using LEED principles.